Teachers reflect on their time attending MCPS high schools

Technology+is+one+aspect++of+school+that+has+undergone+extensive+changes+and+improvements+over+the+past+decade.

Graphic by Julianne Cruz

Technology is one aspect of school that has undergone extensive changes and improvements over the past decade.

Anna Postolache, Features Writer

Seeing students go through the joys and struggles of high school, it is easy for teachers to reminisce about their own high school experiences. For a handful of Richard Montgomery teachers who attended schools in Montgomery County, navigating through their journey being an MCPS student feels like yesterday. 

Chemistry teacher Akshay Gandhi, who graduated from Thomas S. Wootton High School in 2008, described how his favorite part about high school was the friendships he made with his teammates on the Wootton swim team. “A lot of my super long-lasting friendships were built around the swim team. One of my best friends was on the team with me, and I have another good friend that I still stay in contact with who was also on the team. Even our manager is still one of my best friends as well, so the Wootton swim team had a lasting impact on me.”

While swimming was Mr. Gandhi’s main extracurricular focus, he also remembers the wide variety of clubs and sports offered to students at Wootton. MCPS high schools have always encouraged students to get involved in the many extracurricular activities offered, but Mr. Gandhi notes that one of the biggest differences between now and then is the accessibility for students interested in joining these clubs. “There’s a constant ability to sign up by sending an email to a teacher or a club. It wasn’t as simple for us back then — you couldn’t just jump in as easily. The quantity of clubs is around the same but extracurriculars are maybe more accessible for students nowadays.”

Technology has made the lives of current students and teachers much more convenient. Chemistry teacher Stuart Albaugh, a 2009 James Hubert Blake High School alumni, notes that one of the biggest differences between his high school years and today’s students is the use of technology. When he was in high school, overhead projectors and whiteboards were commonly used to teach a room full of students. Sometimes a huge TV connected to a VCR had to be rolled in in order to watch videos. MCPS started to install Promethean Boards in some classrooms in 2008, just in time for Mr. Albaugh’s senior year. 

“When we first got those boards, everyone was like, ‘Whoa look at this!’ It was totally different from what we were used to,” Mr. Albaugh stated. Promethean Boards were a technological game-changer for teachers, allowing them to present anything, whether it be video, slideshow or website, for students. Chromebooks have also been made widely accessible for all MCPS schools, which was not the case for past generations of students.

It’s great to see there has been a concentrated effort in students on accepting others.”

— Mr. Gandhi

Technology outside of educational purposes has also greatly advanced from the time both Mr. Gandhi and Mr. Albaugh were in high school. Many students nowadays roam the school hallways carrying their smartphones, but for Mr. Abaugh, he and his peers used flip phones. “We used to think it was really cool when people first started texting. We had phones where you’d have to use a keypad to choose a letter, and so we’d be impressed if a student could text from their pocket because they would know the right number of buttons to hit to send a message. And now, I’ll have students who have earbuds in and you can’t even see them because they are wireless, and it’s not even texting anymore, it’s FaceTime and Snapchat. It’s the same but just totally different, which is wild.” Mr. Albaugh said.

Another noticeable change in MCPS high schools that has played to the advantage of current high school students is the removal of final exams and the changes in the grading policy. The school year of 2016-2017 was the first year where final exams were completely eliminated in MCPS, relieving students from a lot of stressful studying. In 2006, the 50 percent rule was implemented in MCPS, giving struggling students a greater chance to bring their grade up. 

While older MCPS student generations may have had more academic obstacles to overcome, important advancements regarding social issues have been made. The culture of student activism has expanded over the years, and issues surrounding the LGBTQ+ community, race and sex are more addressed and confronted now than in prior years. A greater sensitivity toward hateful or insensitive speech has developed compared to before, where derogatory words or comments were used between students more commonly. 

“When I was in high school, discussions about racial justice and racial injustices or friendly language towards one another, being respectful and trying to call out things when certain groups are marginalized wasn’t as prevalent. It was starting to happen — 2008 wasn’t so long ago — but it wasn’t as big of a directive,” Mr. Gandhi stated. “There was a widespread use of words and phrases that are very derogatory, you walked down the hallway and could hear that left and right. Now when I walk the RM halls, I don’t see or hear that. It’s great to see there has been a concentrated effort in students on accepting others.”

For teachers, it is interesting to reflect on all the ways MCPS has evolved from the time they were in the shoes of a high school student till now. Change is bound to happen with time, but many of these changes have resulted in a better environment for high school students.